April 21, 2022

Finding Bee Yards (070)

What are the important considerations for finding a new bee yard? There are a whole lot of right answers to this question and Kim and Jim explore almost all of them. For starters, year-round access, locked gates, dangerous animals, safety, and...

What are the important considerations for finding a new bee yard? There are a whole lot of right answers to this question and Kim and Jim explore almost all of them. For starters, year-round access, locked gates, dangerous animals, safety, and liability (yours and the property owner)?

There are many questions you should ask.

The answers, of course, are going to be all over the map (sorry) and you will need to know (and probably have in writing) the answers to all of them. Plus, talk to as many beekeepers as you can find that have outyards and find out what, if any troubles they had, so you can be prepared before you move your bees. Be careful, be safe and behave when it comes to moving bees, setting bees on other property, and getting to and from your new beeyard.  

If you like the episode, share it with a fellow beekeepers and/or let us know by leaving a comment in the show notes. We'd love to hear from you!


Thanks to Betterbee for sponsoring today's episode. Betterbee’s mission is to support every beekeeper with excellent customer BetterBeeservice, continued education and quality equipment. From their colorful and informative catalog to their support of beekeeper educational activities, including this podcast series, Betterbee truly is Beekeepers Serving Beekeepers. See for yourself at www.betterbee.com


Honey Bee Obscura is brought to you by Growing Planet Media, LLC, the home of Beekeeping Today Podcast.

Music: Heart & Soul by Gyom, Walking in Paris by Studio Le Bus, original guitar music by Jeffrey Ott

Photos copyright © One Tew Bee, LLC

Copyright © 2022 by Growing Planet Media, LLC


Honey Bee Obscura

Episode 70 – Finding Bee Yards


Kim: Oh, Jim. Well, I got to tell you it's great to be back.

Jim: Well, Kim, it's good to have you back. You had a good long break.

Kim: I did. My wife Kathy took a tumble here, oh, about five, six weeks ago, and she really mashed up her shoulder. She's been laid up at home. She had surgery; she had her whole shoulder replaced. We've been getting to know each other really well the last five or six weeks, but it's coming around and she's doing better and I'm back.

Jim: Well, just so you know, we've had a good number of people either ask or wonder is he on a beach somewhere? Is he on a walkabout through the Midwestern states? Where is Kim? We needed to wait before your wife got over all this. Congratulations to both of you for being old, but still being tough.

Kim: [laughs] She's doing okay. She's sitting downstairs right now and doing better, feeling better, and eating better. It looks like it's on the way up. Hi, I'm Kim Flottum.

Jim: I'm Jim Tew.

Kim: We're here together today on Honey Bee Obscura. You know what we're going to talk about? Jim's got to find a bee yard.

Jim: I do.

Introduction: You are listening to Honey Bee Obscura brought to you by Growing Planet Media. The folks behind Beekeeping Today Podcast. Each week on Honey Bee Obscura host Kim Flottum and Jim Tew explore the complexities, the beauty, the fun, and the challenges of managing honeybees in today's world in an engaging and informative discussion meant for all beekeepers. Long-timers and those just starting their journey with bees. Sit back and enjoy the next several minutes as Kim and Jim explore all things, honey bees.

Jim: I have been doing this for decades and it doesn't get any easier. Kim, where do you find the new bee yard? There's no advertising. There's no indexes in the back of a bee magazine. You just go find one. It's like looking for Easter eggs anywhere any time of the year.

Kim: I've never had to look for one. I've always had a big enough yard. It's just never something that's crossed my got to deal with issues deck.

Jim: I want you to just stop it. I want you to stop. (laugh) I had a big enough yard and what happened? They are going to put a housing subdivision literally 20 feet, 30 feet from my bee yard that I have had there for 40 years. I'm fencing, I'm doing whatever, but I think the days of my 20, 30 colonies there are probably gone. I had a yard too and now I've got to do something else.

Kim: It begs a question and I know it isn't going to work, but it begs a question. You were there first and [chuckles] if they want to move in they go, "Well, okay, I want to buy that house, but I'm right next to a guy who's got bees." They go, "So I have to put up with it," but that isn't going to work. Is it?

Jim: I had no earthly idea I was going to tell you this, but here's a story. When I first came to Ohio and took the job at Ohio State, there was the grand old master of beekeeping here up north of Wooster; he had a bee yard; he had it there for years. The Ford dealership bought the land across the road and put in a spectacular new car dealership. It took them about two to three years to figure out what all the yellow spots were on their new cars. They basically told that old man that “yes,” he was there first, and yes, he was grandfathered in, but they basically implied they had a lot more money than he did.

This was not going to end well, or he could just move them, and life would be easier for everyone. The old man moved the yard that he had had before he got into litigious situations with a massive car dealership there. You can be right, but you're still going to lose.

Kim: Where do you find a bee yard? You're just driving around the country looking for an empty spot?

Jim: Yes, that's certainly one way. You know what I look for in Ohio, I look for gas wells on farm property because those things are always a scar on the land. No offense to the gas well people. They have a path that goes right to them. The men that go back there, the people who go back there, I'm sure it's men and women, they're tough. They're outdoors, they're four-wheel drive people. They're not really bummed out by a bee hive sitting over there. I've had reasonably good luck just looking for access to oil wells, gas wells and then asking the landowner if I can put bees back there. Not right up next to the well, but in the same general vicinity. There is that.

Kim: That's a good way to looking at it if you got oil wells in the neighborhood. I guess I'd probably have some. I never looked at oil wells from that perspective. The other things you have to worry about is getting off the road into the field. You've got ditches and you've got fences and you've got all these things you've got to get through to get to where your hives are going to sit.

Jim: Gates, Kim, gates. I have learned to hate gates. They're always locked. “Do you have the key?” “Anybody got a key to this gate?” You've driven for 40 minutes to get there to find out that the guy's put cows on that pasture and now he's locked that gate and then you got to go back, find this guy, find a key, and then by then, your day's shot. Then there, there's a whole concept that's hard to describe, but if the truck and trailer's too long you can't make the turn off the lane into the gate. I'm stopping here on this because I've had some real issues with gates to my bee yard.

Kim: The other thing you just brought up, actually a whole bunch of things, but the other thing you just brought up was cows. If there weren't cows when you put your bees there and then the farmer turns cows into-- cows do love scratching those unreachable spots on the edge of your beehive. A 4,000-pound cow scratching on a beehive tends to be less favorable to the beehive.

Jim: Well, I don't know how much the listeners know about me, but I'm just full of it. There's always a story about something. Here's this one, the farmer came roaring up as I was there near his herd of cows saying, "You've got to get out of there right now." I had heard this rumbling sound. He said, "You're really getting that bull upset." For the first time, you said 4,000 pounds, I saw that 4,000 pound animal. You know how those guys claw the front ground, the ground with their front hooves, and throw mud in the air. His head was low. He said, "I want you to come on out right now. Get back in your truck and come on out."

"I got bees over there." "We'll find that another way to those, but you got to come out of there right now." I got out of there and we had to find a different path and I had to climb a fence to do it, inconvenient. I guess the thing is, Kim, things change. When you set the yard up, it doesn't mean that it stays that way endlessly. Things change.

Kim: Here's a complicated question. You've mentioned gates. You get in, you got a key to the gate. You get in, you leave the gate open by mistake or just because and cows get out and cows get out in the road. Somebody hits a cow. Who has the liability?

Jim: Oh, I don't want to talk about liability. I ask a commercial landowner here in Wooster -- he's got unimproved industrial property. I got word to him I'd love to put bees on that property until a factory or something built there. Kim, I'm not exaggerating, out of all the questions he could have asked, question number one was "What's my legal exposure?" There were other questions, but they were so far down the list as to be inconsequential. I couldn't tell him his legal exposure. He and I both decided that we were both uncomfortable doing that. That idea didn't develop

Kim: There's whole sorts of things that go with that legal exposure item because what if your hives get stolen on somebody else's property? Where is the liability? Who owes who what?

Jim: What if the landowner dies? What happens then? Can you go on the property until the estate is settled? Can you go take your bees off the property?

Kim: I've heard of pollination contracts where that wasn't possible. They sat there.

Jim: We're not helping the listeners here, are we? We're just describing all the reasons why.

Kim: I got one more for you. You're at church and a good friend comes up and he says, "My restaurant wants to have its own beehive up on the roof so that I can serve my honey to my customers. How would you like to put a couple of beehives up on my roof?" Over in wherever that town is 20 miles away.

Jim: That issue is what do you do with bee yards you don't want? How do you say “no” to people at church, friends, whatever that you don't want to put two hives on the roof? No, thank you.

Kim: It's a good friend and you're doing him a favor and he's going to pay you to put them up there or something, but 20 miles one way, I don't know.

Jim: Finding a bee yard sometime is just good luck. It's just luck. I was sitting in my dermatologist's office with that guy going over me with a bright light saying, "Yes, you're definitely prone to skin cancer." Then he mentioned his farm. That he has a 20-acre farm just outside of Wooster, Ohio here where I am. He said, "We just let it go wild. We like the wildlife. We like the deer, and the squirrel, and the turkeys," and I'm thinking, "I wonder if I got bees there too." Now, I didn't ask him. I can't say that I did follow up on that, but you sit there wondering, "Should I say something to that guy about putting bees there and exploring that?"

Kim: Well, I know one thing, a friend of mine here in Medina went looking for a bee yard. His operation outgrew his backyard, and what he did is he went talking to farmers who already had somebody's bees on their land. You put them on the 20-acre thing way over there, and he's got another 28-acre thing way over the other way, and you got room for-- if you're far enough apart, you can put a couple of bee yards on a farm. Maybe starting with somebody who already has a feel of what they're getting into, may be a good way to think about it.

Jim: Kim, let's take a break and hear from our sponsor.


Betterbee: What makes Betterbee different as a beekeeping supplier is their focus on bringing new, innovative products to the market such as the Colorado Bee Vac. The Colorado Bee Vac is the world's leading bee vacuum. Trusted to quickly and safely capture bees during cutouts or swarms and easily transfer them to a hive. The Colorado Bee Vac was carefully crafted and tested to relocate bees while drastically minimizing any losses. Visit betterbee.com/beevac to learn more and get yours today.


Kim: Finding a bee yard. Having to because somebody's moving, and it’s going to make you, having to because you got more bees than you can put in your backyard, wanting to because you want to expand your operation, wanting to because you want to put your bees near some kind of honey source that you don't have in your backyard. There's a lot of reasons to look at bee yards, but there's a lot of things to look at for getting a bee yard.

Jim: There's good yards, and there's bad yards. There are long-term yards, there are short-term yards. A bee yard - an apiary - is sometimes for the moment, sometimes for the decade, but Kim what's the number one attribute you'd look for in a location? Number one?

Kim: “Ease of access.”

Jim: That would be my number one. I have to be able to get to the bees when I need to get to them. It shouldn't require a tracked vehicle, some kind of four-wheel drive. I should be able to get to them routinely. Number one.

Kim: That's where you start. Then you just start checking off the other things you got to worry about. A friend in Wisconsin, years and years ago had 12, 14 bee yards. I had to ask him. I said, "Where do you find these?"He said, "Well, I know people, and they know people," and I said, "Well, how do you know if it's going to be a good bee yard?" He says, "Well, I know what's grown around. I've done some scouting. That's part of the deal, is take a look this year, so then when you move your bees next year, you know what's going to be there. What you can expect. Is it got lots of spring flowers, summer flowers, fall flowers, some of each?"

If you're going to be doing this, if you have the opportunity, start this summer for next summer.

Jim: I would go along with that. Always have a new bee yard in your shirt pocket. As you and I are talking, there's just story and story and story and story through the years. I had a great bee yard near me here for years, I took the bees off, and the five years that I was gone, the landowner retired, gave the farm to somebody else to farm. I asked to put bees back there, and they politely said, "No." Sometimes you had a yard you always had, you were a good neighbor, you gave honey away and things change. People change.

Kim: You mentioned two things. One of them is, how do you know if it's a good bee yard? How long do you give a piece of land to prove itself to you and your bees? Is it the first season you don't make 50 pounds a colony, you're out of there? Or do you give it three seasons, an average 50 pounds a colony? I'm not sure what the metrics are here but think of that too for next year. How long do you give a bee yard? Is it one year, one season, three seasons, five seasons? Think of that this year when you're looking for next year.

Jim: You are exactly right, and I completely agree, but you're talking about a certain kind of beekeeper, a honey-producing beekeeper. What if you're a Jim Tew and you're keeping bees for enjoyment, for photographic purposes, for equipment testing? I'm not always looking at maximum honey production, I'm back to my and your number one point. “Can I get to my bees when I want to for whatever purpose I want?”

Kim: yes, and a key to the gate.

Jim: I want the bees to get enough in the area to survive. I'd like some honey, but I don't want to offend any a people listening. I'm not really doing this for a major honey crop. I'm doing it for other bee reasons that are important to me. If I had to do it for honey production, I'd say three years tops. If I haven't done something in three years, and I'm doing it for honey production, two years would be not unheard of, three years if I've done nothing except lose money, then I got to move on. In Ohio, where are you going to move to where there's not more corn, wheat, and soybeans.

Kim: [laughs] You got that exactly right.

Jim: It's not always easy to find something here in this area, but in other areas, I think you could move to a better producing area.

Kim: I don't think we've answered any questions here, have we?

Jim: Number one, I'd like to have ease of access. Number two, I'd like to have gates that I can get through, and a relationship with the landowner that's comfortable. Number three, I'd like for the bees to have food reserves available to them. I don't want them to be exposed constantly to some pesticide application that's going on. Number four or five, whatever it is -  do they have water? Here in Ohio, that's not much of a problem. In some parts of the west, is there water available to them at this yard? Those are the things I'm looking for in a bee yard. Can you add anything to my list?

Kim: Well, I guess, no. I don't think so. You mentioned good relations with the landowner, and it comes to the point where "Do I need to write this down so everybody knows exactly what's going on?" If it gets that finicky, I'm thinking, "Maybe I need to find someplace better."

Jim: On the last note, how much honey do you give the landowner? Is a quart enough? Five gallons? How much is enough if you're giving honey as payment?

Kim: Good question. That's a really good question. At your next bee meeting, go ask somebody what they're giving the landowner and see if there's an average amount the landowners expect in your part of the world.

Jim: I only have a rough idea. I usually give a quart, two quarts. I give what people commonly eat. I don't see any reason to give them five gallons and then they've got to bottle it and do something with it to give it away. Anything beyond a couple of quarts probably should turn into money. From that point on, you need to pay if they want some kind of remuneration.


Kim: Good place to start. Well, we finished this?

Jim: No, we're not, but we're going to stop. That is a serious difference. I'm glad you're back, Kim. I'm glad you're back, and I'm glad your wife is healing okay.


Kim: Yes, she is. I'm glad to be back, and I will talk to you next time.

Jim: I'll be here next time. Thanks for listening everyone. If you get a chance, leave us a comment. We'll try to talk to you about it. Bye-bye Kim.

Kim: Bye Jim.

[00:18:45] [END OF AUDIO]